Katy Balls

Penny Mordaunt’s biggest problem isn’t ‘dark op’ attacks

Penny Mordaunt’s biggest problem isn’t ‘dark op’ attacks
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How many promises should a candidate make in a leadership contest? If you’re Penny Mordaunt, the answer appears to be very few. The trade minister has upset her leadership rivals by becoming the surprise bookies’ favourite in the contest. It means the knives are out when it comes to her efforts – with figures such as Lord Frost criticising Mordaunt and claiming she is not up to the job of prime minister.

In a bid to silence her critics, Mordaunt has today given her first broadcast interview to Sky News. Speaking to Beth Rigby, Mordaunt accused others of engaging in ‘black ops’ to prevent her from reaching the final two of the contest and facing the membership: ‘People obviously are trying to stop me getting into the final because they don’t want to run against me.’ Mordaunt said she welcomed the questions as ‘anyone going for this job needs to be tested and scrutinised’.

Only the issue for Mordaunt could eventually end up being more policy-based than simple blue-on-blue attacks. What was most striking from Mordaunt’s interview today was how little detail she had when it came to her grand plans for government.

When asked what public services she would cut to fund her tax cuts, Mordaunt says she’d look at this in the autumn. She also wouldn’t commit to 3 per cent of defence spending like her rivals Tom Tugendhat and Liz Truss. Ultimately Mordaunt’s message is that a leadership contest is not the right place to make these decisions. Now overpromising is clearly also a problem. But in a contest when you are one of the lesser-known candidates, it’s right that voters are given a clear indication of what to expect.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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